Warning, I got carried away here. I'll just let it stand as is now.
Is this method sufficient and effective?
Maybe, maybe not. Probably not, except for children that respond well to it, and those did not need it anyways. The same goes for any artifical "method" for discipline.
Let me give you an opinionated alternative, informed from experience:
Consequences are effective
Let's break it down with cold logic.
- Child does something wrong.
- Case 1: Child truly does not know that it did wrong. Result: Parent must explain what was wrong about the action; punishment is not required. Parent is a friend, a partner, a coach, a confidante. Parent makes sure that child always knows that he can come to Parent when not sure whether something is right, without fear of unjust punishment. Parent is allowed, no, expected to protect child from bad consequences to a certain extent, but is not allowed to hide the consequences from the child.
- Case 2: Child knew that it was doing wrong, up front. Result: There must be a direct, immediate consequence which shows the child in a very clear way that it did wrong. The child must really, truly feel the consequence. It must be clear that the consequence hits the child, not the parent or some bystander. Involvement of the parent is not necessary, per se. Parent can still be a friend, partner, coach; but never a judge or the executioner of the consequence. Parent will of course keep the child from real, permanent, physical or expensive harm, but nothing more.
- Case 3: somewhere in the middle. Welcome to the hell of parenthood, you now get to decide whether to proceed like in Case 1 or Case 2; and Murphy's Law will make sure you do it wrong, often enough!
Children, adults, dogs, everybody learns from consequences ("if I do A, then B will happen to me").
Nothing else counts, period. Sure, at some stage in life some humans will be wise enough to sit down, and think about how to get better, themselves, and come to profound results this way. But let's not burden children with this expectation just yet.
So, what is a consequence. Simple:
- Child breaks toy in anger. Consequence: Toy is broken.
- Child forgets an important school book. Consequence: Child gets scolded by teacher in front of everybody.
- Child starts to cross the street at a red light. Consequence: Parent grabs child hard and yanks him back, unfortunately at the very last moment, so there is no more time for a gentle movement, but it is very uncomfortable or even painful. Yells "watch out" loudly and in a quite unfunny voice. If a child did not get the message, then he's probably not old enough to walk alone...
- Child walks through the living room with 5cm of mud under her boots. Consequence: Either: child cleans living room. Or: parent cleans living room and has no more time to play with child, afterwards. (Note: there is a great variance in how this could play out for a 3-year, 7-year, 15-year child, ranging from an enjoyable father-child cleaning session; a slightly frustrating father-solo-cleaning-session; and an act of terrorism if the 15-year old did it with fullest intent to annoy the parent; and in the latter case there obviously need to be more consequences. How about "sorry, no allowance next week, I needed that money for a Thai Massage to relax from all the scrubbing today". Nobody said it's going to be easy!)
- Child plays 3 hours of video games instead of 1 like promised. The problem is the loss of trust, not the actual playing. Consequence: Either: parent buys a large alarm clock. Or (if the existing alarm clock was ignored by the child): parent removes the video game for a day or a week, depending on the history of the issue. Parent does not yell, child does not get to sit on a chair.
Every child can and will understand that.
Not a valid consequence
Consequences are not valid when they are disjoint from the cause. I.e., "I did A, I was not allowed that, and hence I now am under house-arrest while my friends are playing outside". They are disjoint when there simply is no causal relationship, or when there is noticeable time between cause and effect.
Nowhere does a consequence like "parent is angry and yells at child" or "child sits on a naughty chair for an hour to 'think'" enter the picture naturally. Those things have no relationship to the wrongdoing. The child learns nothing from them, except bad things (e.g., "parent does not love me", "I have to hit back harder", "I have to hide wrongdoings", "I am dumb", and so on). A child which is able to learn from such methods would probably not need them, in the first place.
What if no consequence comes up?
Then either they actually did nothing wrong, or you have to somehow bring the consequences to them. But still in a direct, immediate way.
- Child steals in a shop; parent notices; shop-keeper does not. Consequence: Parent makes him return the item. He lets the shop-keeper communicate directly with the child, as necessary. It is not the parent who chews out the child; it is the very unpleasant situation with the shop-keeper that informs the child about the transgression.
Nowhere does this lead to the conclusion that the parents just stand by idle while their children go from one pitfall to the other; or that the children can do whatever they please while driving their parents into madness. This works perfectly with "fair but tough" parents.
The above is just a framework which, by sheer logic, must work with any being that is capable of learning. And if you are blessed with one of those children which are not capable to learn such things, then punishment would not have helped either. They might just be too young, too hormone-flooded, or the cause/effect relationship too abstract for them.
The examples are all simplified. There are many nuances, of course. E.g., the candle:
- A parent will certainly not let the child touch the flame with burning parts (shirt, hair); that lesson would be too much.
- A parent might encourage a child to touch the flame with a finger (by leading with example).
- If the parent decides that the child is not old enough to be let alone with a candle, he will not do so, obviously.
- There is a grey area there: I loved to play around with the wax "lake" around the candle flame as a child. Were my parents bad for letting me effectively destroy the candle without consequence? Were they good for letting me experiment and seeing how far I can go? You decide for yourself.
- You maybe guessed it. We have candles on our table at all days of the year, and light them often. Our children do not touch them, and have great respect of fire. They yell at us when we leave the room and the candles still burn. They always like clockwork blow them out before they stand up, no matter what we parents say or do. We did nothing to achieve that, except playfully touching the candle ourselves with a finger when they were 4 or 5 years old (the movement where you just flick through the candle), and letting the children try that as well (their reflexes were fast enough to avoid any burns). Having them sit in a chair to ponder the issue would not have helped them at all.
The same goes for anything else. And no, most other things are never so easy. For example:
- 15-year old child actively tries to hurt parent by yelling really brutal stuff. Consequence: Parent acknowledges (silently) that the kid suffers from hormones and has no other way to express herself. Parent takes the beating in a serene fashion, staying (truly) calm and relaxed. Child will eventually get the bad stuff out of her system and give up. Hormones will go away after a few years. Punishment is not required, thinking about it will not help anyway.
- 25-year old child actively tries to hurt parent by yelling really brutal stuff. Consequence: Parent throws child out, child needs to find a home or live under a bridge.